“Thy speech is not right, O man! If thou supposes that he that is of any worth at all, should be apprehensive of either life or death, as a matter of great hazard and danger; and should not make this rather his only care, to examine his own actions, whether just or unjust: whether actions of a good, or of a wicked man, etc. For thus in very truth stands the case, O ye men of Athens. What place or station whatsoever a man either has chosen for himself, judging it best for himself; or is by lawful authority put and settled in, therein do I think (all appearance of danger notwithstanding) that he should continue, as one who fears neither death, nor anything else, so much as he fears to commit anything that is vicious and shameful, etc. But, O noble sir, consider I pray, whether true generosity and true happiness, do not consist in somewhat else rather than in the preservation either of our, or other people’s lives. For it is not the part of a man that is a man indeed, to desire to live long or to make much of his life while he lives: but rather will in these things wholly refer himself unto the Gods, and believing that which every women can tell him, that no man can escape death.” ~Marcus Aurelius
Apprehensive of Life or Death
As a general rule, humans worry too much. We worry so much that we even worry about opposites. We worry will we have enough of a thing, and we worry that we might have too much. We worry about overeating, and we worry about starving. We worry about death, but we worry just as much about life and what to do with it.
Two Sides of a Coin
Life or Death is not a choice. They are the two sides of the same coin. The physical world is temporary. Everything in the physical world is temporary. So physical life is automatically temporary. There is no magical potion or drug that will change that. We need to accept it as a reality and function accordingly. That doesn’t mean fearing death or worrying about it. When we do that, we fail to live what life we do have. Instead, we need to live each day with joy and purpose and not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow may no happen.
Just or Unjust Actions
Aurelius says that instead of worrying about life or death, we should concern ourselves with whether our actions are just or unjust, those of a good person or those of a wicked person. In Cosolargy, we would put it a little differently. We say that each evening as we are going to bed we should think about all that happened to us that day and how we reacted to it. Did we react in a way that is consistent with God’s Law and God’s Plan for the transformation (redemption) of the physical world, or did we act in a way that impedes that transformation? None of us is perfect, so there will be times when we do things that are contrary to God’s wishes. The important thing is that we recognize it and strive to do better, to constantly improve. That is a large part of what spiritual development is all about.
Fear Neither Death nor Anything Else
Aurelius says that we should conduct our lives, our jobs, our deeds, etc., without fear of death or anything else. This is not an easy thing to do because it is part of the nature of our animal body and brain to try to survive. Yet we even see animals sometimes show a willingness to sacrifice themselves, or at least place themselves in danger, to protect their young, and sometimes even the young of others. We have probably all seen videos of elephants jumping into a river to save a baby elephant being carried off by a strong current. And the one of the mother bird sitting on her nest and protecting her eggs as a harvesting machine goes over her (click here to see the video). They did raise the blade just in time to avoid the nest, but she didn’t know that would happen.
So if simple animals can override their natural desire to protect themselves, so can humans. The important point Aurelius is making is that fear of death is fear of life so if we want to live properly, we must rid ourselves of our fear of death. That may seem impossible for some, and it probably is for those who cling to materialism as their only view of reality. To rid ourselves of a fear of life or death we must awaken and develop our spiritual faculties. When we find that we have an immortal spirit and soul, we have no need to fear death. Physical death to the spiritual person is no more than discarding an old garment that is no longer needed. That is the attitude we need. Life or death in the physical sense isn’t really a choice. We didn’t choose to be born, although some believe otherwise, and we don’t, in most cases, choose to die. But when we know that we have an immortal Self that will go on, fear of life or death vanishes.